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Avoid Pacifiers During First Weeks of Life
  , HealthScoutNews

Infants who suck on pacifiers during the first weeks of life are less likely to breastfeed exclusively at four weeks of age and tend to stop breastfeeding sooner than babies who don't receive pacifiers until later on, researchers reported Monday.

The study findings suggest that parents who can avoid giving their babies pacifiers during the first weeks of life should do so, study author Dr. Fred M. Howard told Reuters Health.

"If you have an option, delaying pacifier use until four weeks after birth is probably a good idea," the University of Rochester, New York researcher said.

Breastfeeding has been linked to a number of health benefits for mothers and infants. Studies have suggested that breastfed infants gain a few IQ points and a reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome, diabetes and chronic digestive diseases.

Based on these and other benefits, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that mothers avoid giving pacifiers and bottles to newborns in order to help infants breastfeed with ease.

However, whether this recommendation actually keeps babies breastfeeding longer during infancy has remained unclear, Howard and his colleagues note in the journal Pediatrics.

During the current study, Howard and his team asked 700 expecting mothers who planned to breastfeed their infants for at least four weeks to give their infants pacifiers either during the first few days of life, or to hold off until after four weeks.

Mothers were asked about their infants' breastfeeding patterns periodically until one year after childbirth.

The authors found that babies given pacifiers during the first days of life were 50% less likely to be relying on breastfeeding alone to meet their nutritional needs at four weeks of age than infants who first used pacifiers later on.

In addition, babies given pacifiers earlier tended to stop breastfeeding altogether sooner than those given their first pacifiers after four weeks of age.

"Our study does, overall, support the WHO recommendation," Howard said in an interview.

Howard and his team also found that babies given supplemental nutrition tended to breastfeed for less time than babies who went without formula, and infants who drank their formula from a cup generally did not breastfeed longer than babies who used a bottle.

"When possible, avoiding supplementation is still a good idea," Howard noted.

In terms of why pacifier use might interfere with breastfeeding, Howard explained that some experts espouse a theory called "nipple confusion." Babies need to employ different methods to suck on artificial or biological nipples, he noted, and some suspect that infants who get used to artificial nipples may develop problems breastfeeding as a result.

Alternatively, Howard suggested that babies who suck on pacifiers may feel soothed by this behavior enough to not desire breastfeeding as often as babies who don't use pacifiers, and mothers who breastfeed less often tend to have trouble producing milk as readily as others.

SOURCE: Pediatrics 2003;111:511-518.


Reference Source 89

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